Steal this idea: Deadwood

This is sort of a companion to my “You’ve got to try this” posts. The purpose of these posts are to present books, TV shows, movies, and ideas that you can borrow from, use for inspiration, or just plain steal from. I’ll also include links to where you can buy the original material to make your life easier.

The key to using these effectively is to think outside the box: Try applying the basic idea, setting, or plot and move it to a new genre or give it a new spin. I’ll try to give you some ideas to get you started, but the best ideas for your own games are obviously going to be the ones you come up with yourself based on your tastes as well as those of your group.

This month I’ll start with some TV shows that you could use for a variety of one-shots or even a longer term campaign. So today let’s start with one of my favorite shows.

Deadwood – This HBO show the fictionalized events of real historical figures. The series is set in the frontier region of South Dakota in the Dakota goldrush days of the late 1870’s. Deadwood is a lawless, rapidly-growing, chaotic town that attracts fortune-seekers, drifters, crime bosses, and adventure-seekers all searching for their fortune, fame, or just a place to die. This series is gritty and will give you an idea of how dirty and nasty a frontier mining town can be. There’s plenty of action, but more importantly, there’s a lot of intrigue and plotting going on behind the scenes which makes for an interesting story.

Ideas: Let’s skip the obvious ones (i.e., a Western RPG), although the series is a must see if you’re planning on running something like Deadlands and want to get a feel for a gritty, bloody, dark setting. Instead, how can we use it in a non-traditional way? How about…

  • A fantasy setting where PCs are residents in the town: The “party” may be a group of fortune-hunters or adventurers operating out of the frontier town or they may all be residents trying to carve out their own niche (this approach would be great for PvP, story-heavy, player-driven game ). Adversaries? Greedy, self-serving townpeople and criminals are obvious choices. So are the creatures of the wild. However, thing outside the box: What about a race that is being pushed out of their natural habitat by the encroachment of “civilization?” Maybe the dwarves mine the gold as part of their religion but are being pushed out by humans and elves intent on gaining riches. Or maybe the elves value the woodlands that the men are cutting down to strip mine for iron. Or maybe the gnolls. Like ratmen/ratkin/wererats? Stick them in there, operating behind the scenes. Or have them fill in the same role as the Chinese immigrants did in the US west (as seen in Deadwood).
  • In a sci-fi setting, picture a lonely outpost on an asteroid built into an ancient ruin. Now add some long dormant aliens, some greedy merchants, and some self-serving government/military types. Or try a space station: Think DS9 on steroids (complete with the ‘roid rage).

Now it’s your turn: Add another idea or spin-off from the series (or just the basic setting idea) in the comments.